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Lucky, Lucky, Lucky

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My nephew is a bit of a whiz when it comes to matters of a computer nature. Kindly, he downloaded a whole bunch of World Series of Poker events that have been shown on ESPN, the American sports channel, over recent weeks, leading up to the airing of the main event.

Several things came to mind while watching the overload of poker: Firstly, how much better the Americans are at televising poker. The commentary is mostly good, the editing is top-class, and the atmosphere is excellent. Sky and the various cable channels could certainly do with learning a few lessons.

Secondly, I really wonder if the WSOP will be as good at the Rio next year. Yes, I know the Horseshoe is a khazi, but there really is something special about the place. It is the one venue where I get nervous before the event. The ghosts just seem to be swirling around the place.

Thirdly, the payout structures really were awful at the WSOP last year. Look at the first open event, $2,000 no-limit hold’em. Ninth place paid $30,700; eighth was $46,040; seventh was $61,380. Every prize money jump between ninth and third was approximately $15,000, and then third paid $122,640, second $213,000, and James Vogl won $400,000 for taking the bracelet! How can there be such small jumps early on at the final table and such massive ones at the end? It virtually forces players to make deals when they are playing for such huge differentials. Hopefully, the payout structure will be much flatter next year.

But the most overwhelming feeling I came away with after watching all of this poker is how badly behaved so many American players are. This manifested itself in many ways, including criticism of other players, swearing, rubbing down opponents after they were beaten, and excessive celebrating. The last of these was by far the most annoying for me. Seasoned professionals whose play I admire acted like schoolchildren. Now, maybe I am being a little bit unfair, as there are several Americans who act well at the table. But the fact remains, Europe is a far more enjoyable and congenial place to play poker. We are lucky, indeed. Let’s stay lucky.

Enough is Enough

I was across the pond in New York for a week before having a crack at the World Poker Tour event at the Borgata in Atlantic City.

I managed to kip for most of the flight over, so I was wide awake when we arrived at JFK. When we got to our hotel, Katharine fell asleep within two seconds of her head hitting the pillow and I was left with a room service pizza, an ice-cold six-pack of Bud, and the remote control of the widescreen TV with seemingly hundreds of channels to surf.

Naturally, ESPN was the first port of call, and they had just commenced three new hours of coverage of the WSOP final Poker Online Pkv event. Joy! The programme was, of course, excellent. It reinforced my belief of how far behind we are in England with our poker shows (with the exception of live coverage). But not for the first time, players’ behaviour was, in a couple of cases, deplorable.

Now, I understand there is pressure playing this event during the later stages that is far above and beyond what I’ve ever encountered. And some emotion is almost inevitable when a player wins a marginal hand, especially on the river. But on two occasions, at least, players overstepped the mark to such an extent that something should have been done about it.

Mattias Andersson was one culprit. Every time he won even a medium-sized pot, he acted like a complete lunatic. He pumped his fists, ran around the table, and screamed, YYYAAAAAAAAAAHHHH” at the top of his voice. It didn’t matter if he was a 4-to-1 favourite or a 4-to-1 underdog when the cards were exposed. He did it every time. Behaviour like this has no place at the poker table.

But, the other piece of behaviour was probably much more offensive. Andersson, at least, had the excuse of this being his first major tournament, and it was possibly “learned behaviour” from seeing others’ exploits in TV poker tournaments in the past. Josh Arieh does not have this excuse. He is an experienced pro with a WSOP bracelet — and his behaviour was astounding. I will attempt to recreate the hand:

There are three tables left. The blinds are $10,000-$20,000. One of the chip leaders in the tournament opens for $60,000 with some raggedy hand. Josh Arieh, with about $800,000 in chips, calls from the button with the 10™ 9™. Harry Demetriou calls from the small blind with A-J. The flop comes A-K-Q, with the K™ Q™. Harry checks, the raiser checks, and Arieh bets about $300,000. Harry moves all in. Arieh calls and rivers a flush.

Now, Arieh makes a stream of critical and abusive comments to the crowd about Harry’s play, something like, “How can this idiot risk $5 million with A-J?” Harry, sitting next to him, has just been outdrawn in the biggest tournament in the world, seeing his chance of victory almost certainly extinguished. How Harry maintained his sangfroid, I will never know.

Enough is enough. If players can receive penalties for using moderately bad language, I think they should get penalties for behaviour such as that displayed by Andersson and Arieh. The threat of 20 minutes away from the table for ungentlemanly conduct should be enough to stop the nonsense.

Meanwhile, Harry Demetriou has gone up massively in my estimation.